Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Experts slam UC for 'guidance' on 'Chinese Virus,' warn of 'chilling' free speech

Free speech experts slammed the University of California System's "guidance" to faculty and students saying not to use the term "Chinese Virus."

Just days after the University of California System issued "guidance" to "not use terms such as ‘Chinese Virus'" and to "not allow the use of these terms by others," free speech experts are weighing in, telling Campus Reform that although these were meant solely as "guidance," they could still impact the free speech of students and faculty alike.

Nicole Neily, president of Speech First, told Campus Reform Sunday, "the University of California system is a public university - which means they're a state actor, and they're bound to uphold the First Amendment, period." She added that "even if certain viewpoints are considered offensive or unwelcome, the school cannot limit their expression."

"the document is framed as 'guidance,' suggesting the directives are merely aspirational; however, the language that follows ('Do not…') suggests these particular provisions are mandatory."    


Top Executive at Nationally Recognized Cancer Treatment Center Fired Over Disgusting Anti-Trump Hate speech

Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York, has fired a top executive over Facebook posts showing her criticizing Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic, and wishing infection and death on Trump's supporters. The remarks were made during an exchange involving Lisa LaTrovato, director of development at Hauptman Woodward Medical Research Institute, an independent, non-profit biomedical research facility in Buffalo. LaTrovato has been placed on leave.

The Facebook exchange was brought to light after former Trump campaign operative Michael Caputo posted screenshots of the conversation on Twitter.

Laura Krolczyk had shared an article about Trump and GM with the sarcastic comment, "Vote Trump." "But will waste more than that on a wall and space force," LaTrovato replied.

"Trump supporters need to pledge to give up their ventilators for someone else ... and not go to the hospital," Krolczyk said.

LaTrovato replied, "I think they should be the only ones in packed churches on Sunday." "They should barricade themselves in there and ride this out," suggested Krolczyk. "Yup," replied LaTrovato.

Another Facebook user chimed in, "Wow, just wow, so your saying we decide who lives and dies based on political views? Great plan

Caputo, who has 37,000 followers on Twitter, shared screenshots of conversations and urged the public to take action. He also called on Roswell Park and Hauptman Woodward to take action. "Is it your public health policy to assure Trump voters are infected with COVID?" he tweeted.

Roswell Park responded a short time later with a statement saying the remarks by Krolczyk, who was not named, were "inappropriate."

"They do not reflect the opinions of Roswell Park or its senior leadership," CEO Candace S. Johnson said in the statement, adding that the institution supports the Covid-19 response of Trump and his administration.

The institution later added: "This behavior is not tolerated at Roswell Park. If any team members act in a way that does not accord with that commitment, we will take swift and appropriate action, just as we did in this instance.


Monday, March 30, 2020

Coronavirus correctness

Shortly after the realities of the Coronavirus pandemic took hold in the United States, a young Californian technologist named Aaron Ginn wrote a paper arguing that the government’s response to the virus was overblown and costly. He posted the essay to Medium, an online platform specializing in hosting such writings.

Less than a day later, the moderators at Medium removed the Ginn essay. The Ginn essay attracted extensive criticism on Twitter from Carl T. Bergstrom, a professor of biology at the University of Washington who noted that the paper was getting “too much traction here and even in traditional media.”

After the removal from Medium, the Ginn paper then was uploaded to at least two sites, one of which was Zerohedge, a website that sometimes pushes conspiracy theories. The venue of republication has some effect on readers’ perception of the article, just as the article’s presence on Medium might impact Medium’s reputation. Republication by Zerohedge may be reputationally poisonous, while an archive​.org link, as I have used above, merely indicates that the content in question is no longer available at its original source.

The extent to which the perceived reputational effects of hosting and deplatforming drive the politics of content moderation is underappreciated.


GQ scribe panned on social media after swipe at Trump calling America a sh*thole country

GQ correspondent Julia Ioffe took the opportunity to swipe President Trump after the United States exceeded other nations in reported coronavirus cases.

Since the availability of testing kits has broadened in recent days, the number of cases in the U.S. has skyrocketed. On Thursday, the U.S. has reportedly outpaced both China and Italy with over 85,000 reported cases.

Ioffe, a frequent guest on CNN and MSNBC, took to Twitter on Thursday and posted, "Who's the s---hole country now?"

The tweet was referring to the 2018 controversy surrounding remarks Trump allegedly said at a White House meeting. Trump denied ever making the comments.

Ioffe was widely condemned on social media.

"Imagine being so triggered by Trump that you see Americans being infected as a chance to own him. Truly pathetic," radio host Vince Coglianese reacted.

"Cheering on a pandemic in the U.S. because it means you can own the Bad Orange Man," Townhall.com senior writer Julio Rosas said.

"I am proud to live in a country that doesn’t lie about our numbers or weld people’s doors shut," Richochet editor Bethany Mandel told Ioffe.


Sunday, March 29, 2020

The word the Australian Prime Minister does not want people to use

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged the Australian public to avoid using the word “lockdown”, saying it creates “unnecessary anxiety” and contributes to panic-buying.

Speaking after a national cabinet meeting yesterday, he suggested the word would give people the false impression they couldn’t go out and buy essential supplies.

“I would caution against the way people talk about this word ‘lockdown’,’’ he said.

“I don’t want to give people … the idea that that is going to be the place we might get to, where people can’t go out and get essential supplies, that they can’t get the things they need to actually live life for the next six months.

“So, when we talk about potential other restrictions, there is no need for people to rush out and cram supermarkets and do things like that, because of other restrictions that may become necessary.”

He said the word creates “unnecessary anxiety” and that a total lockdown was “not an arrangement that is actually being considered in the way that term might suggest”.


Free-Speech Suit Against Trump Gets Go-Ahead From Judge

Free-speech advocates can move forward with a lawsuit alleging U.S. President Donald Trump violated the Constitution by threatening journalists and news organizations who have criticized his administration.

U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield on Tuesday denied Trump’s request to throw out the case, saying the threats are credible because Trump has barred reporters from press conferences before and revoked CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s credentials.

“The press secretary indeed e-mailed the entire press corps to inform them of new rules of conduct and to warn of further consequences, citing the incident involving Mr. Acosta,” Schofield wrote. “These facts plausibly allege that a motivation for defendant’s actions is controlling and punishing speech he dislikes.”

Pen America Center, one of more than 100 centers that make up the PEN International network, sued Trump in federal court in Manhattan in October 2018 seeking an order declaring that Trump’s threats violate the First Amendment.

It also asked the judge to block the president from taking any action in retaliation against members of the White House press corps for speech that he doesn’t like.

The judge declined to issue the order saying Trump “has significant discretion over White House press credentials and reporters’ access to the White House and Air Force One.”

Pen America will now be able to seek documents to bolster its claims that Trump has sought to use regulatory actions to punish critical media, said Pen America said.


Friday, March 27, 2020

Billboard victory in Alameda County, CA

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal court ruled Thursday that the California Department of Transportation must allow noncommercial messages on billboards in areas where it allows commercial messages on signs.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer struck down a portion of a state law known as the California Outdoor Advertising Act. The ruling is a victory for Redwood City business owner Nano Maldonado.

The law, passed in 1933 and amended since then, prohibits most billboard advertising along highways classified as “landscaped freeways.” The only exception in the law is that a billboard can advertise commercial goods or services available at the property on which the billboard is placed. Such messages are known as “on-premises” advertising.

The owner of a promotions business, Nanz Productions, Maldonado launched his battle with Caltrans in 1993, when the agency denied him a permit to display advertisements on the billboard atop his warehouse next to Highway 101 just north of Woodside Road. He said the billboard dates back to 1956.

He fought to put paid political messages and free religious messages on the sign, claiming that a ban on posting the noncommercial messages violated his constitutional right of free speech.

Breyer agreed in a 15-page ruling, saying that the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal appeals courts have ruled that a billboard law may not impose greater restrictions on noncommercial messages than on commercial statements.

Breyer wrote, “The law is settled that billboard ordinances may not favor commercial speech by permitting on-premises commercial speech while prohibiting all noncommercial speech.”


Poetry Library makes ‘courageous’ stand for free speech

Over 150 arts professionals have signed a letter expressing “whole-hearted support” for the Scottish Poetry Library’s defence of free speech under pressure from transgender activists.

Last month, Glasgow Women’s Library denied access to a women’s group whose members do not believe people can ‘change sex’ by self-declaration.

The Scottish Poetry Library issued a statement supporting writers’ free speech, including those who have been bullied online and no-platformed at literary events for expressing their views on gender self-identification.


The Library’s statement read: “What we do not support, and will no longer ignore, is bullying and calls for no-platforming of writers in events programmes and in publishing”.

Director Asif Khan added: “We are the first arts organisation in the UK to speak up on this but we will fight for freedom of expression as a core value of the organisation”.

The artists praised the library for its stand, writing: “From universities, to arts organisations, libraries and government departments, the no-platforming and bullying of anyone holding views not actively endorsing extreme gender ideology is destroying our cultural life.”

They added: “The first step of an ideological takeover is to alter language to suit ideological aims. We all know our Orwell: meaning is the battle ground for freedom of thought”.


Thursday, March 26, 2020

A truly awful idea: Some liberals would pull plug on Trump’s briefings

It’s not much of a shock to discover that Rachel Maddow doesn’t like President Trump’s daily briefings on the coronavirus.

“I feel like we should inoculate ourselves against the harmful impact of these ongoing false promises and false statements by the president by recognizing that when he’s talking about the coronavirus epidemic, more often than not, he is lying,” she told her MSNBC viewers.

What is rather surprising is what Maddow wants to do about it, an idea that is gaining cachet among other commentators on the left as well. “If it were up to me, and it’s not, I would stop putting those briefings on live TV,” she said. “Not out of spite, but because it’s misinformation.”

Think about that for a second. Some liberals, who ordinarily cast themselves as champions of free speech, now want to suppress speech because of their animus toward Donald Trump.

Yes, Trump would still be able to hold White House briefings, but they would literally pull the plug on live coverage, depriving millions of Americans of the chance to see not just him but the vice president, surgeon general and assorted medical experts.

Just censor him. That’s what the argument comes down to. And what’s revealing is that the people who are making this case have spent years denouncing the president in ever harsher terms. Sullivan recently wrote that Trump is so dangerous that “we need to abandon neutrality-at-all-costs journalism, to replace it with something more suited to the moment.” The larger message is a clarion call for journalists to crusade against Trump, abandoning such niceties as fairness as a luxury we can no longer afford.

The president tweeted Monday that he watches “CNN, MSDNC, ABC, NBC, CBS, some of FOX (desperately & foolishly pleading to be politically correct), the @nytimes, & the @washingtonpost, and all I see is hatred of me at any cost. Don’t they understand that they are destroying themselves?”

I was struck when Trump used that word — “hatred” — to describe his media detractors in a 2016 interview with me. While it’s true in certain cases, it is far too broad a brush. And, of course, the president goes out of his way to slam the media as a way of discrediting their legitimate criticism of him.

In short, I think that good journalists can hold Trump accountable for what he says and does, or does not do, without bearing a personal grudge — and recognizing that an ABC poll has approval of his virus management up sharply, to 55 percent.

What I do not think is fair is for television to impose a blackout on the president of the United States because some on the left don’t think the public can handle hearing from him in this crisis.


Tom Cotton: Anyone who casts 'Wuhan Virus' as xenophobic is a 'politically correct fool'

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton defended the use of the phrase "Wuhan Virus" from critics who complain it is xenophobic.

The Republican was prompted to react to media disapproval of labeling the coronavirus in such a way that identifies its widely believed origin in Wuhan, China, by Fox News host Jesse Watters on his Saturday evening show, Watters' World.

"Anyone who complains that it's racist or xenophobic to call this virus the Chinese coronavirus or the Wuhan virus is a politically correct fool," Cotton said.

Moments earlier, Watters showed a tweet from MSNBC's Chris Hayes, who said: "Just astoundingly gross to call it the Wuhan Virus."

The senator said these critics should be ignored, particularly talking about the spread of the deadly illness.

"In fact, as you say, the Chinese Communist Party right now is trying to blame this on America. In their Chinese language media at this very moment, they are telling their own people this did not come from Wuhan. It came from outside of China, perhaps the United States. That's why it's so important that we not let Lijian get away with that kind of propaganda," Cotton said.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter spark fear over free speech with joint coronavirus statement

The world’s top technology and internet companies, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter, responded to the global coronavirus pandemic by banding together to pledge their cooperation in disseminating accurate information about the health threat and preventing the spread of misinformation. But critics fear excessive dependence on social media carries risks of its own.

“We are working closely together on COVID-19 response efforts,” reads a joint statement released last week by Facebook, Google, YouTube, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit, and Twitter. “We’re helping millions of people stay connected while also jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus, elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world. We invite other companies to join us as we work to keep our communities healthy and safe.”

Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have all launched tools to promote information vetted and endorsed by medical authorities, as well as outlined the steps they’re taking to scan for and remove postings ranging from popular misconceptions to fraudulent advice – even obvious satire, in Twitter’s case.

While some of these rules are fairly straightforward, critics fear some of them could potentially cross the line from halting the spread of misinformation into stifling legitimate debate about the wisdom of government’s response as well as the true threat of the virus, a relatively new and evolving situation on which the experts themselves are not of one mind.

Google’s efforts, meanwhile, have already produced some hiccups, such as inadvertently blocking legitimate news apps and even the U.S. Centers for Disease Control from appearing in certain searches on the Google Play store.

“Social media is an important tool for connecting, particularly in times when we are forced to be apart. But using it as our primary or only source of accurate news information – particularly in a public health crisis that is evolving at warp speed – may be risky,” warned Cara Zwibel, director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Zwibel noted that the erroneous removal of legitimate information from these platforms was unsurprising, given their reliance on automated programs over human reviewers. “What the current environment serves to highlight is the increasingly significant role that these private companies play in how we access and consume information,” she said. “It also makes plain some of the challenges and costs associated with using algorithms to moderate and, in some cases, censor, expressive content.”

While concern lingers over tech giants wrongly removing too much content, at the same time critics are accusing these same companies of leaving up some of the most egregious instances of misinformation from influential figures. Last week, Breitbart faulted Twitter for deciding to let stand a tweet in which Tesla CEO Elon Musk claims “kids are essentially immune” from the coronavirus, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says is untrue.

More seriously, Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin have written to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey demanding that the platform take down tweets from Chinese government officials and state-owned media outlets lying about the regime’s initial handling of the outbreak and spreading conspiracy theories about the virus actually originating in the United States.


How the Left is Banning Conservatives From the Internet: A three-pronged attack on freedom of speech

This is a much longer article than I normally post here but it covers a lot of ground -- JR

“Free Speech is Killing Us,” is the title of the latest New York Times op-ed arguing that speech is dangerous. Previous entries included, “When Speech is Violence” which made the same argument.

Free speech has surpassed global warming, the ladies’ room, the criminal justice system, plastic straws, the border patrol, saying, “you guys”, and vaping, as the greatest threat to the ‘right side of history’.

The great conspiracy theory of our time is that President Trump was illegitimately elected because some people, maybe Russians, were saying stuff on Facebook, as part of a conspiracy that eventually pulled in the Russians, the Ukrainians, a British former intel agent, a guy who tried to frame Dan Quayle as a drug addict, FBI agents having an illicit affair, Bernie Sanders’ top strategist, the brother of Hillary’s campaign chair, and a confused former FBI director named Bob who was supposed to bust the case wide open.

But it all began with the claim that President Trump only won because of “disinformation” and “fake news” on social media. The original problem was free speech.

At Harry Reid’s retirement, Hillary claimed that the “malicious threat of fake news and false propaganda” is an urgent danger. At her forum on democracy, she argued that people couldn’t be trusted to make up their minds about the political content that they see on social media.

“Facebook’s answer was, ‘well we’re going to let people decide for themselves,’” she insisted. “How can you decide for yourself when what is presented is blatantly false and manufactured?” 

Probably the same way people decided that she hadn’t been named after Sir Edmund Hillary, hadn’t come under fire at an airport in Bosnia, and hadn’t negotiated peace in Northern Ireland.

The conclusion to Hillary’s sad career suggests that people actually know a lie when they hear one.

But, if people can’t be trusted to determine their political opinions, how can they be trusted to vote?

Obviously, they can’t.

After the 2016 election, the claim that free speech had gone too far and needed to be controlled became widely accepted, first in the media, and then among the big dot coms who coordinated a censorship campaign with media fact checkers. The stated goal was to stamp out ‘disinformation’. And ‘disinformation’ was defined as any viewpoint that media lefties disagreed with or found disagreeable.

Fact checkers were embedded into Facebook and Google’s operations. Conservative content was censored, deranked, and pushed under corporate media content. The ‘disinformation’ pretext, which was supposed to describe foreign propaganda, was extended to apply to nearly any conservative view.

Earlier this year, Pinterest, banned Live Action, a pro-life group, accusing it of “misinformation”.

This push to suppress conservative content on Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media companies is an attack on indexing. People find posts, articles, and videos through search engines, these days largely a Google monopoly, and peer feeds on social media. The indexing attack has been successful with conservative sites losing traffic, and conservatives being banned on social media

But indexing is just one prong of the attack. The others are advertising and payments.

If you’re a leftist, you don’t want people finding conservative content. Going after indexing means that the people who aren’t specifically looking for conservative content won’t find it. The idea is to turn conservative media into a ghetto. The impact on elections and national debates is obvious.

The next stage would be bringing down those sites entirely by ensuring that they can’t find hosting, and that no company will provide them with the services necessary to keep a site running. That’s in the works, but, unlike search, social, advertising and payments, there are a lot of companies and options.

So, for now, there’s been less action on that front.

Instead, the Poynter Institute, whose subset is the International Fact-Checking Network, has promoted efforts by the Global Disinformation Index to cut off advertising to conservative sites. The GDI report claimed that lots of ads are being run on sites condemned by Poynter and its fact checkers.

GDI, whose co-founder led the transition of a Soros group to independent status, never mentions conservatives, but its ‘disinformation’ screenshots feature conservative headlines such as, "Barack Obama is to blame for inflaming racial tensions as first black president", and "Ted Cruz likens Bernie Sanders to another genocidal maniac bent on controlling the population". Two of the disinformation examples feature Ted Cruz, and one is an attack on the Mueller investigation.

While GDI claims that these are examples of "misinformation" or "disinformation", they are opinion pieces. Twitchy quotes a Ted Cruz tweet comparing Bernie Sanders to Thanos for agreeing that population control was part of the solution to global warming. No 'fact check' site seems to have fact checked this and how would you fact check a comparison of Bernie Sanders to a comic book villain?

There are no counterpart lefty headlines and articles accusing President Trump of being a Russian agent.

That’s not “disinformation”. That’s the media’s “information”.

What is clear is GDI’s agenda which calls for “going after the sources of disinformation funding”.

That means removing ads on Twitchy and other conservative sites. GDI claims to be “developing a ratings tool that gives ad tech firms a reliable and unbiased indicator of site risk, enabling them to direct money away from domains that have a higher risk of carrying disinformation.” That’s an elaborate way of saying that the organization is developing an extremely biased blacklist of conservative sites.

Meanwhile GDI will "help to direct more ad monies to low-risk, better quality news domains." Examples of these include a variety of left-wing media sites. Poynter notes that, "Google served about 70% of the websites sampled. It also provided about 37%, or $86 million annually, of their revenue." Get Google to pull the plug and a lot of conservative sites won't be able to pay their bills. Meanwhile the ad money will move from financing conservative content to financing left-wing media content.

The leap from social media censorship to attacks on funding mechanisms for conservative sites makes it clear that this is not just about fighting ‘disinformation’ on social media, but eliminating the opposition.

The attacks on indexing and advertising are conducted under the guise of preventing people, innocent Wisconsin voters who might have otherwise voted for Hillary if it wasn’t for the Russian brainwashing, and companies unknowingly advertising their products to the filthy unwashed MAGA hordes instead of progressive sexually confused fair trade latte drinkers, but the attack on payments kills that pretext.

Even if a conservative site is suppressed on social media and banned from ad networks, its supporters could still donate to keep it going. The attack on payments sets out to make sure that won’t happen.

The Freedom Center briefly lost the ability to accept payments from the Visa/MasterCard duopoly as the result of a pressure campaign sourced from the Southern Poverty Law Center. Beyond going after digital payments, House Democrats have participated in a push to cut off the non-profit status of conservative organizations. Donor-advised funds have also been targeted in a bid to cut off conservative funding.

These are not varying approaches in response to different problems, but a common agenda.

The agenda is to turn back the clock to a corporate media monopoly and silence the political opposition. GDI’s report is fairly blatant in its endgame even as it is disingenuous about its political goals. The endgame in which big tech companies, indexers, payment processors and ad networks function as a cartel, denying access to conservatives, under the guidance of the media and its non-profit allies.

"It's a whole-of-industry problem that needs a whole-of-industry solution," GDI's program director Craig Fagan said.

A whole-of-industry solution would be a political cartel by a collection of illegal dot com monopolies.

What’s the problem that needs solving? Fagan accused the technical director of Google Cloud of a "conflict of interest" while retweeting claims of his alleged links to the Drudge Report and Breitbart. 

“Disinformation” or “misinformation” are euphemisms for content from the political opposition.

The campaign against them is really a program to eliminate the political opposition. That, not “disinformation”, is a real threat to democracy, and that, not the vicissitudes of net neutrality, embraced as an urgent crusade by many of the dot com censors, is the threat to freedom on the internet.

America and the internet were both born as experiments in free speech. But free speech is endangered.

The threat doesn’t just come from hysterical social justice children crying about their campus safe spaces. While conservatives have taken shots at easy targets, a growing alliance between the media, dot com monopolies, and lefty non-profits is contriving to transform the internet into one giant safe space.

Much like the Chinese internet, their vision is of a unipolar community where only one point of view is acceptable and all others are treated as a crime. But, unlike the People’s Republic, they don’t seek to keep the rest of the world out with a Great Firewall, but to force the opposition off the internet with a comprehensive program of political censorship, transforming social media itself into a social credit scheme, and cutting off traffic and funds to conservatives by redefining speech as “disinformation”.

“Free Speech is Killing Us,” the new lefty paradigm insists.

But it wasn’t speech that killed millions of people under Communism and Nazis. It was totalitarian socialist regimes determined to stamp out free speech. A system may start out by banning words, books, sites, tweets and newspapers, but it rarely ends there. Words are written and spoken by people.

Those who set out to ban speech are really out to criminalize the men and women who speak them.

The detached terms that the new censorship is hiding behind, like ‘fighting disinformation’, are Orwellian euphemisms. Speech isn’t a bodiless abstraction. Disinformation implies an objective source of information. Nobody fights disinformation, they silence some people and empower others. They create authorities over speech and use that authority to perpetuate their own power structures.

The power to define “disinformation” is also the authority to define what “information” is.

The campaign to ban conservatives from the internet isn’t just about banishing them, but eliminating any opposition to the power of the governments, corporations and non-profits doing the banning.


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

UK: Criminals to be referred to as 'people subject to probation services' in prison guideline shake-up

HM Prison and Probation Service announced new terminology as part of blueprint for future of probation

Criminals will no longer be called “offenders” by the probation service under a move to “reset” the language and create an “inclusive culture.”

Instead of being known as an offender, anyone under supervision will be referred to as a “person subject to probation services”.

It will cover both criminals serving community sentences for low-level offences as well as prisoners released on licence to serve the remainder of their sentence in the community.

As part of the reform, the term “Offender Manager” will be replaced with “Probation Practitioner”, while “Offender Management” will become “Sentence Management”.

HM Prison and Probation Service announced the new terminology as part of a blueprint for the future of probation. The change reflects the fact that people on probation are expected to have stopped committing crimes.


Censorship in China delayed responses to the Coronavirus

As the United States deals with the coronavirus pandemic, many of us look back and wonder if there were things that could have been done to stop the virus from going global. The most obvious place to start is in Hubei province and Wuhan itself, the epicenter of the disease. We are now learning that the disease had probably festered there for weeks. This is surely at least in part due to the disease’s unusually long incubation period, in which people are nonetheless contagious.

But what now seems equally clear is that Chinese attempts to clamp down on the free flow of information and freedom of speech played a disastrous role, as well. The arrest and death of doctor Li Wenliang helped alert the rest of the world to the censorship coronavirus whistleblowers faced in China. But fewer people may be aware of the widespread restrictions faced by all Chinese citizens, beyond just doctors or journalists.

Since at least Jan. 1, China enforced severe social media censorship of hundreds of terms relating to the virus, many of which concerned the failures of China’s leadership in controlling the outbreak. Because people in China didn’t have access to information about the virus, they didn’t know to take extra precautions, allowing it to spread faster, all the while preventing the world from preparing its response during the crucial first weeks of the outbreak.


Monday, March 23, 2020

After Renowned Psychologist Testifies at Weinstein Trial, NYU Revokes Invitation

Elizabeth Loftus is perhaps one of the world’s most renowned cognitive psychologists. She is a distinguished professor of psychology at the University of California-Irvine where she lectures about the cognitive sciences and in the law school. She has influenced the field with decades of research focusing on the malleability of memory. She has written 23 books and has been awarded seven doctoral degrees for her achievements.

Dr. Loftus is what anyone would call an expert.

And, because of her expertise, New York University’s psychology department invited her to speak as part of NYU’s Distinguished Lecture Series in September of 2019. The series focuses on “especially those at the forefront of interdisciplinary research and perspectives that bridge across multiple areas of psychology.”

In his invitation letter, associate professor of psychology and neural science Jon Freeman wrote that he and his colleagues had “recently polled the faculty as to scientists they would like to invite for this series, and you were voted for by a large number of faculty” and that they “would be thrilled” to have Loftus visit.

All seemed well and good; Loftus’ appearance was set for April 2020 and preparations were beginning, including the university purchasing Loftus’ plane tickets.

However, on February 6th, the Los Angeles Times published an article that highlighted Loftus’ upcoming role as an expert witness in the Harvey Weinstein trial. The article explained that she would testify as an expert on memory called by the defense the next day—which she did.

The same day as the L.A. Times article was published, however, Loftus received a curt email from Ben Rehder, the chair of the NYU psychology department, telling her that her distinguished lecture had been canceled.

After reaching out to the department multiple times for further explanation and receiving no reply, Loftus got suspicious that this had to do with her role as an expert witness in the Weinstein trial. She eventually sent another email asking outright if the cancellation of her lecture was in response to her taking on this witness capacity. She again received no reply and has not received one at the time of this article’s publication.

It has become somewhat of a recent trend to punish scholars who use their expertise to serve in unpopular legal roles. Universities are quick to concede to the political pressure that follows. Last year, for instance, Harvard dismissed then-faculty dean Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. after students protested his role as a defense attorney in the Harvey Weinstein case—the same case that Loftus was called upon to testify as an expert witness.

Expertise does not wane in the face of controversy—it is arguably needed most at such times. At moments of great controversy, or trials where the crimes at hand are the most egregious, expertise is fundamental to articulating the proper course of action. To do without the resource of the expert’s knowledge at a time when truth is most needed, when lives are irrevocably shaped, is immensely irresponsible of any legitimate liberal society.

But there is a broader issue.

If academics are not allowed to take on expert roles in society, what ought they participate in? Social norms ought to encourage—not disparage or condemn—academics who take on active roles in public that highlight their specialized knowledge.

Having a PhD should reach beyond the halls of ivory towers. It should be the symbol of an individual who has dedicated her life to the advancement of human understanding.

In an interview conducted for this article, Loftus’ asks her critics, “Do we really want to live in a world where the media determines who is guilty and who is not? Do we want a system with mob justice; a system without witnesses, without documents?”


‘How dare Boris say “last gasp”!’

The PM has been criticised for making a private joke about ventilators. Some people need to get a grip.

You would have hoped that one of the things that would have gone out with the coronavirus crisis was media people feigning outrage at everything the PM says. You would hope that pretending to be offended by common turns of phrase or jokes would be felt too trivial in these serious times.

But you would be wrong. Just witness the nontroversy over Boris Johnson’s ‘last gasp’ joke. Yesterday, Politico reported that, on a conference call with business leaders about ventilators, the prime minister joked that the plan to up production could be called ‘Operation Last Gasp’.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with reporting this little aside. But others took it further. One Mirror journalist even used the opportunity of yesterday’s Downing Street press conference – in which the government announced more sweeping measures to protect the economy – to ask Johnson about the joke. ‘Is this appropriate language to be using in this kind of situation?’, she asked. Johnson rightly dodged it.

Apparently, even in these times of crisis, some journalists can’t switch off their scolding ways. They need to get a grip.


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Star attacked  for questioning panic measures

With 217 deaths in the USA at last update, the Wuhan virus is a very minor cause of death.  It would not even be a blip in the record of the number of people who die from various illnesses every year. 

The panic over it is therefore hugely disproportionate and destructive.  The panic is clearly causing more harm than the disease.  Ms Lilly is therefore one of the few rational ones

Avengers star Evangeline Lilly revealed to her fans on Monday that she is refusing to self-isolate because she values 'freedom' and dismissed the coronavirus pandemic as a 'respiratory flu'.

She shared a 'business as usual' post to her Instagram account, in which she revealed she was still going out and taking her children to their activities in spite of the fact that everyone has been told to stay home.

Next to a pair of photos of her 'morning tea,' as the 40-year-old Ant-Man And The Wasp star hashtagged it, Lilly wrote, 'Just dropped my kids off at gymnastics camp. They all washed their hands before going in. They are playing and laughing. #businessasusual'

Evangeline is mom to eight-year-old son Kahekili Kali, with her partner Norman Kali, as well as one other child.

'Some people value their lives over freedom, some people value freedom over their lives. We all make our choices,' the Lost actress responded pointedly within the comments section of her post, clearly making her stance on the world's reaction to the pandemic known.

The post caused many outraged fans and followers to express concern and ask questions, especially regarding Lilly's decision to head out and bring her kids to their normal activities.

'Please stay at home with your family. Flatten the curve and save lives. Irresponsible,' one person commented.

Another concerned fan shared: 'I've always been a fan of yours. But I'm sorry, you are being extremely selfish and irresponsible with people's lives. Screw experts and the world health organization, I'd like a peaceful cup of tea.

But Lilly was adamant about exercising her 'freedom', claiming things were getting 'too close to martial Law.'

Lilly's attitude continued to anger people as she tried to respond to the criticism, revealing that her elderly father with stage four leukemia is currently living with her.

'I am living with my father at the moment, who has stage four lukemia. I am also immune compromised at the moment. I have two young kids.'

Those over 60 or with compromised immune systems are considered at the highest risk for COVID 19 and have been urged to stay home by public health officials.

In yet another comment, Evangeline went so far as to fuel a conspiracy theory that the coronavirus might actually be orchestrated by the government since we're ahead of a presidential election. 'There's 'something' every election year,' Lilly - who was born in Canada - wrote.

Responding to a commenter talking about the dire state of things in New Mexico, Lilly doubled down on her skepticism.

'I think we all need to slow down, take a breath and look at the facts we are being presented with They do not add up to the all-out, global lockdown, control, pandemonia and insanity we are experiencing. I hope that people will find their peace and sanity where you are soon. Sending you loving prayers.'


British novelist scraps new book title over looming 'political correctness' row

When Barbara Taylor Bradford announced she was writing a prequel to A Woman of Substance, she promised her legions of fans she would finally tell them the backstory of one of her leading men. And so she will - with one rather large modification.

The title and cover of her new book have been scrapped, she has disclosed, after publishers raised concerns over the character’s name: Blackie.

The book, which was announced in a marketing drive in November, was originally going to be called Blackie and Emma, named for the protagonist of A Woman of Substance and her best friend.

The character of “Blackie” will now be known by his official christian name of “Shane” for the purposes of the cover, after concerns were raised over whether the word could be misconstrued....


Friday, March 20, 2020

The Media’s Appalling Fixation on Trump’s Use of ‘Chinese Virus’

America is in a state of lockdown, the stock market is plummeting, and countless people around the world could get sick and die as the result of a deadly pandemic, but still many in the American press will use their time to give cover to the People’s Republic of China.

At a press conference Wednesday, President Donald Trump was asked why he used the phrase “Chinese virus” to describe the new coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19.

Cecilia Vega of ABC News asked: “Why do you keep calling this the Chinese virus, there are reports of dozens of incidents of bias against Chinese Americans in this country. Your own aide, [HHS] Secretary [Alex] Azar, says he does not use this term. He says ethnicity does not cause the virus. Why do you keep using this? A lot of people think it’s racist.”

Other reporters asked essentially the same question.

“Because it comes from China,” Trump responded to Vega. “It’s not racist at all. No, not at all. It comes from China, that’s why. It comes from China. I want to be accurate.”

Trump doubled down, explaining that he chose to use the “Chinese virus” phrase to push back on the idea, spread by Chinese officials, that the virus was started by the U.S. military.

Trump is right about his rhetoric. The virus originated in Wuhan, China, and it’s appropriate to label it by where it came from, as we do with many other viruses.

Just a few months ago, most American media outlets had no problem identifying COVID-19 with China, unless they think they were peddling racism and xenophobia as many now claim.

It’s important to keep a focus on the origin of the pandemic in light of the fact that the actions of the Chinese communist government to suppress information in the early stages of the outbreak have deeply exacerbated this catastrophe.

It’s incredible that in the face of the Chinese government’s expulsion of American journalists and refusal to provide reliable information about the outbreak in China, our own press is most troubled by the president’s attempt to draw attention to this with a simple phrase of identification.

It’s especially important that as we first manage the very serious health crisis, we also remember how a ruthless authoritarian regime turned a limited catastrophe into a global one.

Hopefully this message will get through to the press. Maybe now is the time to restore some of their lost credibility rather than further damaging it.


UK: The UCL’s war on eugenics… and free speech

A university does not have to endorse all views. But it does need to tolerate them.

In January 2018, it emerged that James Thompson, a retired psychology lecturer at University College London, had been discreetly using his room-booking privileges to host something called the London Conference on Intelligence within UCL.

The LCI was an annual invitation-only discussion group on heredity and intelligence, comprising around 20 people. When it emerged that participants had included Richard Lynn, whom the US-based research group the Southern Poverty Law Center labelled an ‘unapologetic eugenicist’, and the blogger Emil Kirkegaard, who had written years ago about the morality of underage sex, there was predictable and perhaps understandable outrage. This was exacerbated when it emerged that the journalist Toby Young had also dropped in on one session of the LCI.

UCL was quick to respond. It launched an investigation into how Thompson was able secretly to host these annual meetings without its knowledge.

But that investigation was not enough for some students and staff, enraged about the seeming persistence of eugenics on their campus. So, in December 2018, with the Thompson affair rumbling on, UCL was pressured into launching a broader inquiry into its historical links with eugenics. This focused principally on Sir Francis Galton, a professor at the university and the man who, in 1883, invented the word ‘eugenics’, and Karl Pearson, a mathematician also interested in eugenics. Rooms and buildings were still named after Galton and Pearson.

And last month this inquiry produced its conclusions. UCL is to expunge the names of eugenicists from all its buildings and produce a ‘meaningful apology’ for its ‘complicity’ in the promotion of eugenics. It was also to offer new scholarships to study race and racism, and it pledged to ensure UCL staff and students learn about the history and legacy of eugenics.

But some members of the 16-strong inquiry team refused to sign the report. They felt that this inquiry should have also focused on Thompson and the London Conference on Intelligence. They felt it was not enough to treat eugenics as a historical rather than a contemporary problem. UCL countered, saying that it had dealt with Thompson separately, and, earlier this month, published a redacted report on the Thompson affair to prove it.

The whole thing is a bit of a mess. UCL’s attempt to deal with the legacy of Galton and Pearson was predictably right-on. And it certainly threatens to send teaching and scholarship in directions dictated by woke politics rather than intellectual rigour or curiosity. Yet in some ways it is the Thompson affair, and the response to it, which is more shocking still.

UCL deemed Thompson’s conduct scandalous. It said Thomson had been seriously culpable in not telling UCL authorities what the meetings were about, who was coming to them, whether they were controversial, and what they were going to say. Some of the papers were about seriously controversial subjects; worse still, it said, the binders used to present some of the papers had borne the UCL logo. All these matters, it said, carried a risk of serious reputational damage to UCL. Nothing like it must ever be allowed to happen again.

Yet peer a little deeper into the investigation’s findings, and the matter appears far from clear cut. Firstly, very few LCI papers had anything to do with eugenics. The majority were about genetics, and of these a fair few were on the relation between intelligence and race, sex and class.

This is an important distinction. Eugenics, in the sense of measures for the selective breeding of humans, is rightly viewed with disgust by many. The scientific investigation of whether heredity has any connection with intelligence, by contrast, is undoubtedly a controversial and potentially uncomfortable issue. But it is not something that most people would say ought to be suppressed. Yet this is what UCL wants to do.

Indeed, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that UCL’s real aim in its Thompson investigation was to ensure that it could suppress future discussion on awkward topics within its walls. After all, this is why UCL complains about Thompson not revealing the identity of the LCI’s speakers. Because in doing so, UCL had been deprived of ‘the opportunity of taking appropriate action to mitigate the risk of reputational damage’. In other words, it would have wanted to tell Thompson that he could not hold the meeting unless it had vetted the speakers and pre-approved what they were permitted to say. And remember UCL wants to do all this in relation not to a public event, but to an invitation-only meeting to present and discuss scientific papers.

Let’s return to first principles here. A university is a place for the expression of all sorts of opinions. No one thinks it endorses all the views expressed within its walls, especially those expressed behind closed doors in one of its dreary basement rooms to an invitation-only group.

UCL could perfectly well have taken the line that the views expressed in LCI meetings were none of its concern. But it did not. It preferred to project itself as an institution that holds the ‘right’ view on identity politics and the need to prevent offence to particular interest groups.

How does all this fit in with UCL’s legal duty to uphold freedom of speech within the law? Not very easily. In the opening to its report on the Thompson affair, it states: ‘We expect speakers to be sensitive to the diversity of our inclusive community and to show respect to all sections of that community.’ But freedom to say only what is sensitive and respectful to particular interest groups is not the same thing as freedom of speech within the law.

More to the point, the Thompson report, seen alongside the inquiry into UCL’s historical links to eugenics, seems to confirm something which a good many observers have suspected for some time. Universities are increasingly seeing themselves as businesses selling a product and a lifestyle. When freedom of speech comes into conflict with the incessant demands of the men from marketing, there are no prizes for guessing which will win.


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Sunlight Exposes Dangers: Free Speech In (and After) a Pandemic

Plenty of misinformation is circulating about the COVID-19 pandemic, and that can lead to impatience about or even hostility toward free speech. Would we be better off if the government stepped in to restrict or penalize false reports? Such restrictions would not be unknown in time of epidemic. The city of Newark, N.J. recently threatened to prosecute persons who make false statements about the outbreak.

In a fine new piece, Greg Lukianoff of FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) points out that free speech helps bolster resilience to threats like the virus, in multiple ways.

To begin with, the looming crisis with COVID-19 is far worse than otherwise because of the repressive state policies of the Chinese Communist Party (today, China announced that it is expelling reporters from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post, and will not even let them work in Hong Kong.) Specifically:

Since at least Jan. 1, China enforced severe social media censorship of hundreds of terms relating to the virus, many of which concerned the failures of China’s leadership in controlling the outbreak. Because people in China didn’t have access to information about the virus, they didn’t know to take extra precautions, allowing it to spread faster, all the while preventing the world from preparing its response during the crucial first weeks of the outbreak.

In closed societies like China, government officials have the power to stop the free flow of information if they believe it poses a threat of any kind, either real or imagined; and in authoritarian regimes, like China, the leaders of countries often see anything that might embarrass the country in the eyes of the world as a threat. By contrast, if the initial outbreak had happened in the United States, where the government has comparatively little legitimate power to control what citizens say, it’s doubtful that the disease would’ve gone unnoticed.

Despite the inapt metaphor often applied, Lukianoff argues, an arena of free expression does not really function as a “marketplace of ideas” in which competition works to drive out peddlers of falsehood the way a market for goods tends to drive out peddlers of lamps that don’t light. In the idea business, there are people, institutions, and movements that prosper for the longest time selling total junk. Hence the observed failure of the hope for “the good ideas to ever finally defeat and drive from the earth bad ideas.” The difference is that in systems controlled by the government, like China, those who operate the control switch can cut you off from those trying to reach you with the truth. “Freedom of speech gives you a fighting chance to know the world as it really is.”

Lukianoff’s further and subtler point is this. The free venting of false notions on an ongoing basis, together with the study of false notions circulated in the past, gives us crucial information about the human psyche — what people are prone to believe, and how if ever they might come to be talked out of it — and about the particular landscape of false beliefs we must face in this world right now. It is “the lab in the looking glass.”

Both for scientific reasons and for our success as a democratic republic, we need to know more, not less about the ideas in our fellow humans’ heads. I call it my “Iron Law”: It is always important to know what people really believe, especially when the belief is perplexing or troubling. Conversely, in the overwhelming majority of scenarios you are not safer or better off for knowing less about what people really think.

The “lab in the looking glass” metaphor can also explain a whole lot more of the First Amendment than the Darwinian marketplace of ideas.


SUNY Oswego fails free speech test

Higher education institutions in America welcome ideological diversity on campus… so long as you follow their elaborate and conditional speech policies.

At Oswego State, a public university serving 7,000 undergraduates, students and members of the greater community are forced to jump through unnecessary (and unconstitutional!) hoops before engaging the public in their point of view.

The university website claims SUNY Oswego “has been inspired by those who desire to push traditional higher-education boundaries.” But apparently you’ll need to get a permit at least three days in advance before pushing any norms or limits, as street preacher Jesse Morrell discovered last month.

Morrell considers himself a traveling preacher and Youtuber, and he visited the Oswego campus a few weeks ago to spread his message. Morrell’s preaching was, by all accounts, exceedingly rude. As his controversial speech began to attract a crowd, Morrell noticed a pair of female students holding hands and kissing as they walked by. Morrell confronted the women, preaching an anti-LGBTQIA+ message. Other students got involved, and a shouting match ensued.

Campus police responded and went to the public quad on the public campus “to see if Morrell had the permits to be there.” Morrell did not, and the police insisted that he acquire the university-sanctioned permits before he would be allowed to continue speaking. Morrell then went to the appropriate office to request permission from a campus bureaucrat to exercise his First Amendment rights, but was denied speaking rights because Oswego State requires a three-day waiting period for a permit to talk on campus.

As a public university, SUNY Oswego is bound by the Constitution to protect the First Amendment freedoms of speech and religion guaranteed for all people on their campus — students and guests alike. Open air gathering areas on public campuses are considered “traditional public forums” in which speakers (even of controversial messages) receive the greatest level of speech protections.

Time, place, and manner restrictions are generally permissible in these areas so long as they are content neutral and narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest. For example, SUNY Oswego could prevent speakers from using megaphones in an area near classrooms during regular class times in order to prevent class disruptions, but the college could not allow some “preferred” groups to use megaphones while all others are banned from doing so.

A three-day waiting period for a permit to use the space could be reasonable in the rare event that it were necessary to prevent the area from becoming overcrowded (perhaps during move-in weekend or during a student organization fair). But photographs taken during Morrell’s preaching appear to show few, if any, other speakers attempting to use the space. Without any significant government interest, SUNY Oswego’s requirement for speakers in their public spaces to get a permit at all, let alone three days in advance, is likely unconstitutional.

The proper and civil response toward speech you don’t like is to ignore it, walk away, or engage in a discussion of your disagreements. SUNY Oswego is teaching its students the wrong lessons. 

Thankfully the president of the Student Association promised that the student government is working to pick up the University’s slack in facilitating productive civil discourse. The Student Association is “working on different programs and different practices to really help befit the student body. Not only in the aspects of their First Amendment rights but also in just life in general, of what’s going to happen when you take that next step off campus.”

Perhaps some of Oswego’s campus administrators can sit in and learn a thing or two?


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

It's up to the Supreme Court to teach Seattle 'Free Speech 101'

Imagine a law that required Republicans to contribute to Bernie Sanders’s or Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. Or that the Hollywood left must donate to President Trump’s reelection. Would you support such a law? Of course not ― most of us would find such a law to be not only unconstitutional but an affront to one’s conscience.

Absurd as those imagined requirements sound, they capture the essential thinking behind Seattle’s “democracy vouchers” campaign finance scheme. The Supreme Court will decide next month whether to look at a First Amendment challenge to that scheme. Here’s hoping the court gives city officials a crash course in how free speech works.

Seattle’s unusual program works as follows: At the start of an election year, Seattle floods mailboxes with $25 vouchers, four for each resident. Recipients can only use the vouchers as a donation to Seattle politicians’ campaigns. The funding for this scheme comes from a special assessment on city property owners. In effect, property owners are forced to pay for their neighbors’ campaign contributions.

Popular candidates inevitably receive most of the voucher funds, even if objecting property owners prefer a minority candidate. In a renter-majority city, popular candidates are not likely to represent the interests of property owners on many issues.

For example, one of the city council candidates who received the most vouchers, Councilwoman Lisa Herbold, was the sponsor of some of the most radical anti-landlord laws in the country. One requires landlords to pay for damage to their property caused by perpetrators of domestic violence. Another strips landlords of their ability to object when a tenant brings new roommates into a home. Another prohibits landlords from choosing among prospective tenants, forcing them to accept the first qualified person who applies. Another prohibits landlords from performing background checks. The list goes on. In essence, landlords are being forced to pay for the campaign of someone whose policies are hostile to their interests.

Forcing people to sponsor speech they oppose defies the First Amendment. The Constitution protects not only your right to speak but also your right not to speak, including your right to refrain from paying for the speech you oppose.

As Thomas Jefferson put it: “That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” The Supreme Court has quoted, and relied upon, this language in striking down laws that force workers to pay union dues against their will.

But the Seattle officials who hatched the democracy vouchers scheme have a different notion of what “free speech” entails. For them, free speech is valued only to the extent it promotes democracy. Forcing you to pay for someone else’s speech must be good, in their view, because it gives the recipients more money to express their views.

But free speech exists first and foremost to protect individual conscience, not because it improves the community (though it certainly does that). That’s why Jefferson and other Founders were so concerned about forcing someone to support the views of others with whom one disagrees. The strength of free speech is not measured by the quantity of speech in society, but rather by how a society honors the individual’s right to differ.

The fight that soon will come to the Supreme Court could answer important questions about government power to force taxpayers to sponsor ideas they oppose. But the case brought by Pacific Legal Foundation is about more than a new-fangled campaign finance idea; it’s also about a basic question posed at our nation’s founding: Are our rights gifts of government that we hold at our rulers’ sufferance, or do those rights rise above government, fundamental and inalienable? The Supreme Court should remind Seattle of the answer.


Professor, Punished for Not Using Preferred Pronouns, Appeals After Judge Dismisses Case

A professor at an Ohio university is appealing a federal judge’s ruling that he contends compels him to say something he doesn’t agree with.

“Professors don’t give up their First Amendment freedoms simply by choosing to teach,” said Travis Barham, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal aid group that represents the professor.

Nicholas Meriwether, a philosophy professor at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, says he was “illegally disciplined” by his employer because he chose not to adhere to a male student’s insistence on being referred to with female titles and pronouns.

“Dr. Meriwether received a written warning … threatening him with ‘further corrective actions’ if he does not start expressing the University’s desired message,” Barham said in an email to The Daily Signal, adding:

These further corrective actions could include suspension without pay or termination. He is still employed at Shawnee State University, though he has this black cloud hanging over his head all the time. This punishment is illegal because it violates his First Amendment rights.

On Nov. 5, 2018, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on Meriwether’s behalf, maintaining that he should not be forced to use feminine pronouns and titles for a male student.

“Public universities have no business trying to force people to express ideological beliefs that they do not hold,” Barham told The Daily Signal. “Dr. Meriwether remains committed to serving all students with respect, but he cannot express all messages or endorse all ideologies.

“When the university tried to force him to do this and then punished him for exercising his rights, it violated the First Amendment,” Barham said.

U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott threw out the lawsuit Feb. 12, and Alliance Defending Freedom announced Thursday that it is appealing her decision.

Dlott, appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1995, is senior judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

Emilie Kao, director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal in an email that Meriwether is being robbed of his constitutional rights.

“Compelling a university professor to utter scientific falsehoods in the name of a political ideology is un-American,” Kao said. “The Constitution protects the freedom to speak according to one’s conscience. It must be protected on controversial issues like transgender ideology if diversity of thought and intellectual integrity are to be preserved.”

Jonathan Butcher, a senior policy analyst in Heritage’s Center for Education Policy, said in a written statement provided to The Daily Signal that “students and professors should be allowed to speak freely on public policy issues of the day and not fear reprisal from the university based on positions the school has decided to take on such topics.”


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Free Speech Is Far From Thriving at UChicago

Contrary to what Jack Votava believes, the backlash against Evita Duffy’s whiteboard reveals something alarming about free speech on campus.

By Matthew Pinna 
We’ve all experienced that moment when, as we stare slack-jawed in horror at the sheer number of pages we have to read by 9:30 a.m. (“Who even makes books this long?”), we begin to think to ourselves: “I could totally skip this and just wing it in discussion tomorrow.”

In a tragic twist of fate, Jack Votava’s recent op-ed, “IOP Controversy Shows Free Speech Is Thriving at UChicago,” showcases an example of that logic going completely wrong; as I looked at his article, I couldn’t help but wonder if he had even read what Evita Duffy had written.

Duffy detailed the attacks levied against her in her op-ed, including “threats of violence” and comparisons to animals, but Votava dismissed these as “derision, mockery, and satire,” mere elements of “an active discursive culture.” No, she wasn’t upset over being told by someone online that she deserves “a brick wall,” as Votava suggests. Instead, she apparently just wanted “recognition of the legitimacy of [her] beliefs.”

And was she truly upset? Of course not, Votava explained. The paragraphs Duffy spent describing how such threats made her fearful on her own campus were nothing more than “highly disingenuous” lies, simply a knee-jerk product of the “bruised egos” that come with “real free speech.”

Finally, demonstrating a true masterclass on rhetorical straw-manning, Votava latched onto a single sentence of Duffy’s op-ed: “It is not hard to imagine what sort of actions they [the administration] would be taking if an LGBTQ+ or Muslim student faced similar threats or experienced this sort of intolerance on campus.”

Aha! A conservative mentioned minorities, so therefore their entire op-ed must be bigoted! “This disturbing false equivalence,” he writes, “exposes the heart of the conservative argument and how vapid it really is.”

One doesn’t need to later quote a philosopher as he did, however, to break down what Duffy’s line really meant. What that small snippet of her broader argument boiled down to was: These students would have been protected from threats—why haven’t I? It wasn’t a desperate equivocation of the exact struggles of a conservative to that of a minority, but instead, an attempt to point out that a threat should be seen as a threat, regardless of whom it’s directed toward.

In order to disagree with what Duffy wrote, a critic would thus have to adopt one of two stances: either that she deserved to be threatened or that she wasn’t threatened in the first place. Respectively, then, that critic would either be completely insensitive or unable to read what Duffy explicitly wrote in her op-ed.

The benefit of the doubt demands that Votava not be a jerk. However, it leaves us with no other option but to question his reading skills. Another example of such a failing comes as he outlines the aforementioned “disturbing false equivalence.” He plainly states that a threat against minorities “degrades these students’ humanity and demeans fundamental aspects of their identity.” For Evita, though, he reduces her experiences to “belittling recognition,” somehow overlooking that telling someone they deserve a brick wall, for one, isn’t quite teasing.

This is entirely different from telling someone that they are drawing a false equivalence between their experiences and those of a minority; Votava’s argument is an outright denial that Duffy’s experiences occurred. In short, even if you’re inclined to think as he did—that one’s “core identities” are on a greater plane than one’s political identity—his whole op-ed must be recognized as missing the greater point that Duffy was threatened, which I hope no decent student would encourage.

Hopefully by accident, Votava ignored the entirety of Duffy’s op-ed and the trauma that came with it for the salivating opportunity to call a conservative a hypocritical “victim.” Not only was his op-ed factually incorrect, but it was also extremely inappropriate and patronizing for both Duffy and anyone else who has found themselves in a similar position.

As someone who has been told that they deserve to die more times than a pack of cats has lives, I always find it particularly funny when someone insinuates I or someone else can’t tell the difference between an argument and a threat.

It becomes downright comical, even, when they suddenly decide to become a paragon of free speech for the sole purpose of telling a student that they should effectively suck it up and take their death threats like an adult. Conservative snowflakes, am I right?

Votava’s op-ed is far beneath the standard for “political discourse” that he so praised in his writing. All he did was prove his own prejudice and show how free speech on this campus still needs more work before it can accurately be called “thriving.”


How social media censors book publishing

It's a big thing to have a book published, no matter how prolific you are. One Australian writer was looking forward to their latest novel coming out through the local arm of a multinational publisher.

The writing and editing were complete, the advance – $15,000 – was in the bank, advance reading copies of the book had been printed, and early publicity dispatched to shops. It was all systems go.

Then, a matter of weeks before publication, the publisher pulled the plug. Yes, there had been issues to deal with – not least the way the novel handled the subject of Islam and gay sex, which had been assessed and revised to the apparent satisfaction of the publisher.

"No one among all the people with misgivings ever suggested to me there was anything wrong with the book, that it was bigoted or racist or whatever," said the novelist, who didn't want to be named in case it affected chances of being published in the future. "They just in the end said: 'You're not allowed to write this book. This story isn't yours to write.' Well, who gets to decide who owns what story? Which committee or censor does the figuring? Social media, apparently."

What really bothered the publisher, apparently, was the treatment the book would get on social media. The equation, the author was told, was that there was no nuance on social media, and therefore social media's judgment of the book would ultimately become the judgment of the world.

The book's cancellation is one local example of the perceived and actual power of social media when it comes to issues of cultural appropriation and the cancel culture to influence publishing.

Earlier this year, an online conflagration erupted with publication of Jeanine Cummins' American Dirt, a novel about Mexican migrants to the US written by a woman who critics claim was not qualified to tackle the subject because she was neither a Mexican nor a migrant.

And this week, there was the cancellation of filmmaker Woody Allen's memoir, Apropos of Nothing, after publisher Hachette, which also published his estranged son Ronan Farrow's investigation into Harvey Weinstein, was castigated by readers, commentators and its own staff for signing up Allen, given he has been accused of sexual abuse by his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, for many years. Allen has long denied the allegations.

So are these issues playing a greater role in Australian publishing and how should they be negotiated?

Hachette Australia publishing director Fiona Hazard, who says she would not have distributed Allen's memoir here, says good publishers assess public sentiment. "The size of someone's social media profile can play a part in publishing decisions, including the way they are seen in the wider community. So if someone is writing on integrity and honesty and then found to be dishonest that will have an impact."

And if there's adverse reaction on social media? "When we decide to publish a book, we consider all the angles and will stand by our authors," she said. "Sometimes, however, people can do the wrong thing and reputations can be damaged. In these instances, we must deal with the fallout on a case-by-case basis."

Publishers, she points out, have to be aware of cultural sensitivities and to seek sensitivity reads where appropriate.

Scribner publishing director Ben Ball, a former publishing director at Penguin Random House, says publishers should not be put off giving people a voice even though there might be legal sensibilities to be worked through.

Marketing and publishing departments do alert the editorial side of a publishing house about something that might prove fraught on social media, he said, but he has never seen that sway a publishing decision, "certainly not a publishing decision that we were feeling good about".

While it's unlikely anyone will read Allen's book soon – unless they are in France, where Editions Stock, a Hachette subsidiary, will still publish it – the fuss about Cummins' novel hasn't undermined its commercial appeal. It is at number four in the New York Times bestseller list and number two in the Amazon fiction list.

Meanwhile, the disgruntled author whose book was canned has kept the advance – "they broke the contract" – and regained the rights to the book. Whether another publisher will step into the breach remains to be seen.


Monday, March 16, 2020

Forbes Magazine Deletes Article Suggesting Biden Take a Cognitive Assessment

The influential business magazine Forbes posted an article titled “Does Joe Biden Have Dementia? Does It Matter?” by senior contributor Elizabeth Bauer. It was a provocative piece that made the not-so-startling suggestion that Joe Biden needs to have a cognitive assessment done

But that suggestion was apparently too much for the staid financial publication and they pulled it after a few hours.

What's so controversial? Bauer summarizes the evidence and then makes the point that Trump took the Montreal Cognitive Assessment screening test in 2018 and aced it. So why not Biden?

And — folks, this is where I’ll take off the journalist hat for just a moment: I have watched someone take this test. To a cognitively unimpaired person, the questions seem trivial. But the individual that I watched take this screening could not answer questions that to an unimpaired person would seem obvious. These are not “trick questions”; it’s not an IQ test nor is it designed to ferret out nuances.  But if a person really does have impairment, the test really will identify it.

Which means that, yes, if Biden’s gaffes and his outbursts are just “Biden being Biden,” then there should be an easy enough answer: Biden could take the screening test just as easily as Trump did, and just as easily pass it, and then everyone can just shut up about the issue — unless, that is, the claims of Republicans that he has been pushed and manipulated into this election against his own best interest, and he’d be better off having stayed in retirement, are actually well-founded.

The article quoted is from a cached version. Bauer isn't talking and Forbes refuses to comment.

But the question of why any hint that Biden isn't "quite right in the head" is taboo in major media persists.


In defence of Suzanne Moore

Trans women are not women and you should be allowed to say so

Brendan O'Neill

Suzanne Moore once said she wanted to vomit on me. So I’m guessing she’s not a fan. Alas, defending freedom of speech, standing up for the essential liberty of intellectual and moral dissent, often means defending people who despise you. Even people who want to puke on you. And so I must defend Ms Moore from the army of censorious misogynists keen to shut her down because – let’s be frank – she thinks that if you have a dick you are a man, not a woman.

As all of us are aware, it has become a thoughtcrime to believe in biological sex and a speechcrime to say that individuals born with a penis are male. As trans-sceptical feminists like Posie Parker, Venice Allan, Meghan Murphy, Selina Todd, Kathleen Stock and Julie Bindel have discovered, it is now ‘transphobic’ to believe that blokes are blokes, even if they think they are women. It is now bigotry to think born males should not be allowed to roam around women’s loos, insert themselves on to all-women political shortlists, or beat up women in boxing rings. Yes, it is now phobic, evil no less, to question the right of men who ID as women to punch actual women. What times we live in.

Ms Moore, not for the first time, finds herself alongside these other trans-questioning feminists on the misogynists’ hitlist. Her speechcrime this time was to write a column in the Guardian saying it is bonkers to see sex as a social construct and insisting that women should have the right to self-organise. Biological reality? Freedom of association? Naturally, the illiberal, unreasoned woke mob who will shame anyone who questions the science of climate change while simultaneously binning the far more solid science of biology and sex – consistency is not the censor’s strong point – went berserk at Ms Moore’s expression of scientific truth and her defence of women’s rights. They branded her unhinged, hateful, violent, to which the only reasonable response is: buy a mirror, lads.

Alarmingly – well, for anyone who was still clinging to the idea that the Guardian is a liberal newspaper – more than a fifth of Moore’s own colleagues wrote a letter condemning their own newspaper for publishing a column they disagree with. How very Pravda of them. Imagine the colossal levels of entitlement it must require to believe you have the right to peruse a newspaper without encountering a view that runs counter to your own. The 338 intolerant Guardianistas sent their missive to editor Kath Viner – and to Buzzfeed too, natch, because what’s the point in partaking in an orgy of censorious virtue-signalling if it doesn’t go viral? – and insisted that she stop publishing ‘transphobic content’ because it is making them feel ‘deeply distressed’.

Oh, grow up. Seriously. One could quote Mill here, or Milton, or Frederick Douglass, who had been an actual slave and yet wrote beautifully in defence of full freedom of speech, in contrast with those 338 breastfed, silver-spooned, cushioned middle-class dweebs at the Guardian who mistake reading a column they disagree with for an outrageous act of structural oppression. One could quote those guys but really all that needs to be said is: grow up. If ideas you disagree with ‘distress’ you, get the hell out of journalism. Out of public life entirely, in fact. Disagreement, debate and dissent are the lifeblood of public debate. Put up or ship out.

Moore’s column was indeed dissenting. The great self-delusion of the transgender lobby and its legion cheerleaders is that they are an oppressed movement struggling to be heard over the din of, er, a Selina Todd speech or the occasional Guardian column wondering if it is really right that men in bikinis should be allowed to swim in the ladies’ pond on Hampstead Heath. Because in truth, the vast majority of establishment institutions love the trans ideology. The education system, universities, the cops, loads of politicians, even the goddamn church. Not to mention popular culture, where subscribing to the religious-like mantra ‘trans women are women’ is as essential to one’s moral survival as believing Jesus was the son of God would have been 500 years ago. The trans ideology has fulsome backing from the elites; it is ordinary people who think it is nuts.

So Moore is dissenting from one of the elite’s core new orthodoxies: genderfluidity, the end of men and women, sex as a mindset rather than a biological reality. And, like all intemperate defenders of orthodoxy, her army of haters are out to punish her, to cancel her. There is an undeniable misogynistic bent to this fury with trans-sceptical feminists. Some men question trans ideology, too, but they never get as much hatred and bile as the women who question it. It seems very clear that the assertion of women’s rights is seen as a threat by trans activists, because it calls into question their biological relativism, their post-sex eccentricity, and their frankly sexist belief that born males should have free and easy access to women’s spaces. They insult, and in some cases assault, women who defend women’s rights precisely because the very idea of women is a threat to their desire to co-opt womanhood as part of a rather strange identitarian roleplay. The reason ‘trans women are women’ is yelled like an incontestable mantra is because it is actually designed to erase the specificity – the biological, social and relational specificity – of womanhood.

In the Moore debacle, what we essentially have is men who think they are women trying to silence a woman. If we are going to be honest, this is what transgender agitation represents more broadly right now: men acting as women attacking actual women. It is, as I have argued before on spiked, misogyny in drag. You can’t even say ‘women’ anymore – it’s now ‘womxn’. Posters and flags showing the dictionary definition of the word woman are torn down at the behest of men. Women’s cycling and weightlifting are invaded by men. Any sportswoman who raises questions about this, such as the brilliant Sharron Davies, is denounced as a phobe and a bitch, etc.

This is cancel culture with a sexist twist. It is the silencing of women by men. It’s positively 1950s. It is time more people spoke out. Of course trans people should enjoy the exact same rights as every other citizen: the right to vote, the right to organise, the right to speak. But they are not women and therefore women’s rights do not apply to them. They should not have access to women’s spaces or women’s organisations. Trans women are not women. And until that factual truth, that bizarrely dissenting cry, is more widely stated, the neo-misogynistic assault on women’s rights, and on truth and reason itself, will not stop. Suzanne Moore should now feel free to vomit on this article.


Sunday, March 15, 2020

Laurence Fox receives apology and 'out-of-court settlement' from Equity after it branded him a 'disgrace'

Laurence Fox has received a payout and apology from actors' union Equity after members were urged to denounce him over his Question Time appearance in January.

The Lewis star was both praised and vilified for criticising the "woke" worldview on the BBC programme.

Criticism came from members of Equity who branded Fox a "disgrace" and called for him to be "unequivocally denounced".

Equity has now issued an apology, and The Telegraph understands the actor has received "out-of-court settlement" from the union.

Members of the union’s Race Equality Committee which initially called for the actor to be denounced online have all resigned in protest at the apology.

They made their plea for declamation following Fox's appearance on Question Time in January (watch the video below), when the actor was labelled a "white privileged male" on air.


Previous report on this HERE 

Policing humour is no joke

Thousands of people in Scotland have been logged on a police database for making rude jokes online.

Police Scotland are up to their old tricks again. It was revealed last week that they are logging jokes made on the internet because someone, somewhere, might have had their feelings hurt. A freedom-of-information request by The Times showed that more than 3,300 ‘non-crime hate incidents’ – that is, offensive remarks, including jokes on social media – have been stored on a police database somewhere north of Hadrian’s Wall over the past five years. Hundreds of Scots were placed on the insidious database last year alone.

When logging a social-media joke as a hate incident, cops trawling through Twitter must judge it to be motivated by ‘hostility towards race, religion or a person being transgender’. But it does not take much to meet this threshold. According to guidance issued by the College of Policing, an incident can be judged hateful ‘irrespective of whether there is any evidence to identify a hate element’. The jokers would then have their ‘repeated behaviour’ monitored by police for signs of ‘criminality’.

Frighteningly, although none of these ‘incidents’ is in any way against the law, the police’s record could show up on an enhanced DBS check. These are used by employers to check an applicant’s suitability for a job. Police Scotland insist that these ‘hate incidents’ will only be revealed to potential employers if cops deem it relevant to the job in question. But given the low bar the police have already established for putting people on the database in the first place, who can say what jobs would be discounted?

This is a terrifying state of affairs. In police stations across the land, there are teams of rozzers looking through social-media comments and impugning the motives of those posting them.

Most perplexing is the fact that these ‘non-crime’ incidents are logged at all. Defenders of non-crime hate incidents argue that logging them allows the police to take preventative action against more serious hate crimes. But that is as nonsensical as keeping a record of tobacco smokers on the off-chance that they graduate to weed. Police in a supposedly free country should not be compiling files on citizens for jokes they have made – or for anything they say or think.


Friday, March 13, 2020

Wikipedia Deletes “List of Scientists who Disagree with the Scientific Consensus on Global Warming” in Astonishing Act of Censorship

In another disgusting indication of where climate science/debate is at today, a handful of Wikipedia editors have “voted” to delete the immensely useful and topical page: “List of Scientists who Disagree with the Scientific Consensus on Global Warming“…

Here’s the reasoning for the censorship given by one of the Wiki editors:

“The result was delete. This is because I see a consensus here that there is no value in having a list that combines the qualities of a) being a scientist, in the general sense of that word, and b) disagreeing with the scientific consensus on global warming.”

In other words, this decision was apparently taken by a single individual, the ‘Editor’, in Wiki parlance, points out Dr Roger Higgs. His/her “consensus” (ironic choice of word) is based on the online discussion among Wikipedia ‘Users’ at that site (link here), each of whom was evidently asked to vote on whether to “Keep” or “Delete” the page. However, far from a consensus, by my count (please check it) there were 35 Deletes and 19 Keeps. What qualifies the Editor to dictate that 35 to 19 constitutes a consensus, and use that claim to justify deleting a key document on arguably the most important (and most expensive) global social issue since World War Two?

Fortunately, this wiki page formed the backbone of my article: “THE LIST” — SCIENTISTS WHO PUBLICLY DISAGREE WITH THE CURRENT CONSENSUS ON CLIMATE CHANGE (link), and so has been preserved, for now at least, until Electroverse is also scrubbed from existence (they’re working on it)…

The cabal of climate propagandists who control all Wikipaganda articles relating to climate change are consistently, brazenly dishonest and anti-scientific. The article which they deleted was riddled with mischaracterizations of the “consensus,” which were designed to promote the cabal’s point of view. The article was deleted because the cabal concluded that it nevertheless did more harm than good for The Cause of promoting climate catastrophism.

Few people (and very few scientists!) actually deny that climate change (global warming) is real. 25,000 years ago the sites of present-day Boston and Chicago were under a sheet of ice which is believed to have been about a mile thick! So you can bet your sweet bippy that climate change really occurs (fortunately).

The climate debate has never been about whether climate change is real. It is. The debate is over its scale, its attribution (how much of it is caused by mankind), and its effects (beneficial vs. harmful).

There’s no scientific consensus that climate change is harmful. That’s why when climate activists survey scientists about their opinions on climate change, they don’t ask whether climate change is harmful, because if they did then their surveys wouldn’t show a consensus.

This was the last version of the deleted Wikipaganda article which was saved in The Wayback Machine, before they deleted it:



UK: Now they’re censoring free-speech societies

A pro-free speech student group at Sheffield University has been told that it is a ‘red risk’ by the students’ union, the Telegraph reported yesterday. As a result, it will need to apply for approval for its events at least three weeks in advance and the SU will have ‘full and final approval’.

One of the students who set up the society, Ewan Somerville, told the Telegraph the society wasn’t even planning to invite anyone that controversial, at least by any normal definition of the word. Rather, it planned to invite ‘legitimate’ speakers who are just deemed anti-woke in today’s climate.

Regrettably, this kind vetting is not unique to Sheffield. It is standard practice across the UK and allows students’ unions to bury all manner of potentially contentious meetings. But this is certainly one to keep an eye on, as, believe it or not, ‘students’ union tries to censor free-speech group’ is a rich subgenre of campus censorship.

In 2015, the Free Speech and Secular Society at the University of Manchester organised a meeting to discuss the question ‘Does modern feminism have a problem with free speech?’. As if to answer that question, the students’ union’s women’s officer swiftly announced that one of the speakers, radical feminist Julie Bindel, was banned from attending.

Manchester’s Free Speech and Secular Society had previously been told that it was not allowed to display a copy of the survivors edition of Charlie Hebdo, released after the slaughter of the magazine’s staff by Islamists, in case it offended Muslim students. (The cover depicted the Prophet Muhammad.)

In a similar vein, a pro-free-speech student magazine called No Offence was banned by Oxford University Students’ Union in 2015 over fears it might, er, ‘cause offence’. Students had planned to hand it out at the freshers’ fair but were told they were not allowed to. Plus, as the magazine’s editor, Jacob Williams, later told spiked, one student reported it to the police.

In 2016, students at the London School of Economics set up a ‘Speakeasy’, another free-speech society. Within a matter of days a motion had been put before the students’ union to ban it. (Luckily, that motion was roundly defeated.)

So if you think students’ unions or censorious campus activists would have more sense than to go after free-speech societies, for the optics if nothing else, think again. Best of luck to the Sheffield crew.